The other day I was thinking about when the next census would released – 2022. I enjoyed finding my family and placing them in context in the 1940 Census. I thought that I know much of the information that would be asked on the 1950 Census. Why wait? I Googled a blank form for the 1950 Census. This is the first of a series based on all of the unpublished censuses – 1950, 1960, 1970, 1980, 1990, 2000 and 2010. I was there!
The 1950 Census is the first one in which I make an appearance. I was three years old. We lived at 643 Union Street in Springfield, Massachusetts. This was the parsonage/ community house located next to the church.
My father, Albert B. Cleage, was the “head” of the household. He was 38 years old and had worked for 52 weeks as the pastor of St. John’s Congregational Church. I do not know how much he earned the previous year, but I’m sure it was on the low side of the $2,992 average wage. He was born in Indiana and both of his parents were born in the United States. He had completed at least 1 year of post degree college work.
My mother, Doris G. Cleage, was my father’s wife. She was 27 years old and was born in Michigan. Both of her parents were also born in the U.S.A. She had completed four years of college and had not worked outside of the home the previous year. She had given birth to two children, both of them still alive. Three year old Kristin and one year old Pearl had both been born in Massachusetts. My parents had been married 6 years. Everybody in the house was identified as “Neg(ro)”. My mother took education classes at Springfield College in 1950 but I’m not sure if it was before or after April, when the census was taken.
Some things that I know about my family at that time that aren’t listed include that we did not own a car and that my father hoped to eventually find a church in Detroit so they could move back home. This happened the following year, 1951.
Now we go to the maternal side of my family, the Grahams. My mother Doris Graham was born February 12, 1923, the third of the four children of Mershall and Fannie (Turner) Graham.
“3rd baby – Doris J. Graham born February 12th – 1923. 5:10 a.m.- on Monday at Woman’s Hospital Beaubien and For(est) – (Detro)it Mic(h)”
Some of my mother, Doris Graham’s, memories of her childhood
About four blocks around the corner and down the street from Theodore was a vacant lot where, for some years ,they had a small carnival every year. I don’t remember the carnival at all. I never liked rides anyway. Not even the merry-go-round. But I remember it being evening, dark outside and we were on the way home. I don’t remember who was there except Daddy and I. He was carrying me because I was sleepy so I must have been very small. I remember my head on his shoulder and how it felt. The best pillow in the world. I remember how high up from the sidewalk I seemed to be. I could hardly see the familiar cracks and printings even when the lights from passing cars lighted things, which was fairly often because we were on Warren Ave. I remember feeling that that’s the way things were supposed to be. I hadn’t a worry in the world. I was tired, so I was carried. I was sleepy, so I slept. I must have felt like that most of my childhood because it’s still a surprise to me that life is hard. Seems that should be a temporary condition.
This picture was taken at Belle Isle in 1930, which used to be a city park in the Detroit River and was free to all. It has since been changed to a state park and there is a fee for entry. Howard must have been almost one year old, he had been born the previous September. He seems to be wearing a gown. Mary Vee was ten and Doris was seven.
I never realized how sociable my mother and other family members of her generation were until I started reading the social items in The Detroit Tribune. I first found this photograph in the family photographs of my mother, (center back row), her sister Mary Vee (seated on the floor), and my father’s sister Barbara seated on the couch to the far right. I also recognized my uncle Bud (Frank Elkins) who later married Mary Vee and a few family friends. I wondered what sociable things they did and when I found the following items in the Tribune, I found out.
No wonder my mother worried that I wasn’t social enough.
“The Social Sixteen Club met at the residence of Gladys and Walter House, Monday, Dec. 27. Plans were completed for the club’s New Yea’s Eve swing, which was held on December 31. Following the completion of these plans, members turned their attention to the refreshments and dancing, both of which were enjoyed. Later in the evening, the crowd went out to Bob Johnson’s home on Montclair, where they had a grand time. These young folk included Jean Johnson Howard Tandy, Shirley Turner, Lewis Graham, Bob Douglas, Bud Elkins, Connie Stowers, Jack Franklin, Jack Barthwell, Vee Graham.”
“Members of the Social Sixteen Club feel that they will have pleasant sailing, under the pilotship of their winsome new president Doris Graham, talented daughter of Mr. and Mrs. M. C. Graham of Theodore avenue. Miss Graham is very popular among the “teen-age” set and is an honor student at Eastern High School.”
“The Social Sixteen Club held its latest meeting at the home of Mrs. Christine Smoot. After the completion of business, a repast was served by the hostess. The next meeting will be held at the residence of Miss Barbara Cleage, on Scotten avenue. At this meeting, they will render a program as follows; vocal solo, Christine Smoot; tap dance, Shirley Turner and Connie Stowers. The newly-elected officers of the club are; Doris Graham, president; Howard Tandy, vice president and corresponding secretary; Bob Johnson, secretary-treasurer.”
Well we is in Los Angeles… (Typewriter is still on the way) Our last two weeks in San Francisco were a conglomeration of everybody sending us on our way. We had supper out almost everyday — and all of San Francisco’s Elite entertained us — quite a time was had by all. We also received several gifts in addition to the church’s gift of books — Cigarettes — Candy — towel set — 2 lbs of coffee — ash trays — and books (even a copy of Strange Fruit). People were very nice — with their regrets and hopes that we will return when Thurman leaves. Frisky kept smiling even though it seemed to hurt his face.
Just before we we left we met Rev. Roy Nichols who has another inter-racial church (Congregational) across the Bay in Berkley. His co-pastor is Rev. Gallager who was president of Talladega College before coming to the “Pacific School of Religion”. Nichols “offered me a job “working with him and Gallager — and tried to arrange a meeting with Gallager but I was too busy. (I’m tired of inter-racial churches for the present!)
President Imes of Knoxville College sent me an application blank which I returned (with a letter in which I re-organized Knoxville’s curriculum around religious education!) He said he had an opening for a Prof. of Religious Ed — and a college Preacher — the combined job paying $1,890 per year and house.
(The top corner of the page, where the return address would be on the reverse side is torn out, leaving four half sentences.
….ply to my application …happy to have …ine training and …Knoxville faulty – but he would have to work slowly to get the Elders of the church – and he does not want to seem to be forcing – the issue etc. He also admitted that the salary is very inadequate (with which I agree!!!) He said that he had mentioned my application to the President of Virginia State College who also is looking for a College Preacher but just for a year while the regular preacher is away studying. He suggested that Virginia State will contact me — giving me the opportunity to pick the position which offers the best position. (Nice, isn’t he!)
Anyway – I’m writing Imes and advising him to take his time — I’d rather stay here until next fall anyway I can finish two years work at the U. of Southern California by that time. As I told him, I’m looking for a permanent position which will still allow me time for study during the summer — with an occasional semester off for study etc. I don’t suppose anything will come of it!
Los Angeles is a fine town! Except for our present financial uproar we like it better than any place we’ve been yet.
Our financial-uproar is due to the fact that we have not as yet received our last — $200 — pay! Dr. Smith stopped payment because I insisted upon $200 instead of $135 –. So — I have turned a bill into the church for the balance of $65 due. I suppose I’ll get it all one of these days! (over Frisky’s dead body!)
Our apartment is Super-duper!!! It’s “on the hill”– which in Detroit would be the “North-End” — except its more like Boston Blvd — or Lake-shore Drive!!! — Big — fine houses, lawns and palm-trees. Negroes have not broken into the “hill district” A Mrs. Hammonds of Detroit owns the building (Husband a racketeer (?) or something in Detroit). Our living room is right out of “House and Garden” magazine — It is long with blue wall to wall carpet — and white walls and woodwork — and white walls and colored upholstered furniture — end tables — cocktail table ‘n that — (Ohhh yes and Venetian Blinds at the windows which are all the way across one end of the room with wine-colored drapes at either end!) The bathroom is pale-blue tile with white woodwork ‘n that. Shower — built in bath tub ‘n’ that!
The only catch is the kitchen which is an alcove between the living room and the bah-room. It’s shrewd, too but it ain’t got neither sink nor stove! We’re supposed to get an electric plate to cook on — and the land lady is supposed to put in a sink! The ice-box and cupboard are in. It was called a Bachelor-apt. — and so had no stove or sink.
Both the kitchen living room and bath have built in automatic heating units (gas). The living-room has an “In-a-door-bed” which is very nice — and the closet for clothes! We also have a garage for storage, the building is new and shrewd! Thousands of Negroes within walking distance and all in nice homes – quiet and taken care of just like white-folks. I can see why Daddy wanted to move out here. It would be a fine place to live if you had money!
We’ve been here eating at the restaurant ever since we got here – There’s a very nice little colored restaurant within walking distance “The Faun” – very elite — ‘n’ that! But our pocket-books won’t stand much more of it, — fun though while it lasts!!!
I registered at the University of Southern California today. Its a fine campus and buildings — I can’t tell about classes yet. With the religion fellowship — my bill was $73.00 for 16 hours (full semester). Without the reduction it would have been over $200.00 (and I’d a been right home!) Most (all but one) of my courses are in Cinema — with one religion course to enable me to register in the graduate school of religion.
Doris starts job-hunting any day now! She has an appointment with the Red-Cross and the Urban League. Can’t tell how everything is going to turn out — quite an escapade however, if we can just last a year! and then move on to New York – authorities in the field of Cinema and Religious Ed. ‘n’ that.
Tell the Junior Doctor to keep his fingers crossed until we wire him formoney — and then to wire the money — and send “the I told you so” on by air-mail!
Just a short not to tell you-all that we have our Los Angeles address and that the apartment is at least partially furnished. We received a Special from Mr Woodard, the agent who has been looking for a place for us, and this is what he said about the apartment he has for us.
“It is a modern apartment in every detail and is equipped with a living-room suite, carpet, Venetian blinds, and a pull-out bed in the living-room. Adjoining the living-room is a small alcove which is used as a kichenette. It has a frigidaire (I can hardly wait!!) in it but does not have a stove. Adjoining this kitchenette alcove, is a complete tile bath.” The rent is $37.50 per month.
So ——it looks like we will go to Los Angeles and stay awhile. I hope the apartment is as good as he makes it sound. We are very lucky to have a furnished one…. it will save us quite a bit of expense. We have our tickets for July 2 and will leave at 8:15 a.m. and arrive at 6 p.m. the same day. The apartment will be ready for us when we get there, so we will not have to spend money for a hotel room. I am getting all ready to pack. Freight rate from here to L.A. is 90¢ a hundred pounds and if we ship our things four or five days before we leave, they should get there when we do.
Everything here goes well. We went down to Palo Alto yesterday with the Brittons and had a very good time. It was cold and foggy in San Francisco, but down there the sun was shining and we felt the first hot weather we’ve seen since last summer! Stanford University campus was a very interesting place to see what white-folks money can do. Five thousand acres of palm trees, huge stone buildings, carillons, a 30-room house for the President of the University, and an estate for Herbert Hoover… a mess.
Don’t worry about us if our letters are short for awhile. We’ll be busy getting ready to go. We’ll write something every week, though. It takes about six days for your letters (not air-mail —three days for them) to reach us, so if you mail any after June 25, send them to 2130 South Hobart Boulevard, Apartment 4, Los Angeles.
Looks like the “fabulous” Cleages are off on another “fantastic” adventure or something. WE’D VERY MUCH LIKE TO BORROW HENRY’S ELECTRIC-STOVE if you-all aren’t using it (or planning to use it soon.) It’s about the only thing we’ll have to buy for the apartment … except a desk (or table) for me. IF you-all can see your way clear send it to us at the address above RAILWAY EXPRESS right away SO IT WILL BE THERE WHEN WE ARRIVE. and (O.K. LOUIS) send us the bill (for carting and shipping)
I don’t remember whether I mentioned this or not. I heard from the Detroit Council of Churches a few days ago…saying that my application will be placed on file until they raise the money… and promising to contact me this FALL when the plans are worked out a little more definitely.
Don’t worry too much about our Los Angeles expedition… if it doesn’t work out WE’LL BE ALONG HOME ANY DAY. Seems like it might work if the good Lord decides to keep Albert B. Cleage, 3rd in heaven for a couple more years … and Doris can find an EASY job (which is the only sort she’d keep!)
Everything here is just too sweet … the church is arranging a farewell party … and getting a present etc. I preach my last sermon here next Sunday. We had a fine trip yesterday … down to Palo Alto … SOUTH …warm and everything … (Like Los Angeles). A lady in the church has a FORD she wants to sell for $250.00 … I’m trying to talk Doris out of getting it … (since it would leave us too close to broke!) (You can see she sure is a STA-BAL-IZING INFLUENCE! DON’T FORGET THE STOVE! Let us know, either way as soon as possible so we can try to pick up something here if you’re using it!
This post covers the time from my father’s ordination, my parent’s marriage and the few months they spent in Lexington, Kentucky at Chandler Memorial Church. Click the link to learn more about the history of Chandler.
The news items below were transcribed from The Detroit Tribune (Detroit) and Colored Notes, The Sunday Herald-Leader (Lexington, Kentucky). Click the photographs to enlarge or to go to the websites where I found them.
Thursday February 4, 1943 Albert B. Cleage ordained at Plymouth Congregational Church, Detroit, Michigan, by Rev. Horace White.
October 2, 1943 Rev. Albert B. Cleage of Detroit, Mich., will preach at the Chandler Memorial church at 11 o’clock Sunday morning.
Sunday, Nov. 7, 1943 Chandler Memorial church worship and sermon, 11 a. m., preaching by the Rev. A. Rice, Sunday school 12:15; Y. P. meeting at 6 p. m. The annual “harvest-home” ingathering will be held Nov. 21-22 Donations may be forwarded, or call 1356-X. Roger Stewart chairman. The new pastor, the Rev. A. B. Cleage will take charge Nov. 21.
November 14, 1943 Chandler Memorial church, worship and sermon, 11 a. m., preaching by the Rev. A. Rice. Sunday school 12:15. Special program at 3:30 p. m., sponsored by Mrs. Louise Newman. Participants are Prof. W. T. Seals, Miss Hattie Lee, L. D. Mills, William Smith and Prof. W. J. Black. The annual “harvest home” ingathering will be held No. 21-22. Donation may be forwarded or call 1356-X. Roger Stewart, chairman. The new pastor, the Rev. A. B. Cleage of Detroit will take charge next Sunday.
Friday, Nov. 19, 1943 The Rev. A. B. Cleage of Detroit, new pastor of the Chandler Memorial Congregational Christian church, 548 Georgetown Street, will take charge Sunday morning.
Sunday, Nov 21, 1943 Chandler Memorial church, the Rev. Albert B. Cleage, pastor; worship and sermon 11 a. m., preaching by the pastor. Sunday school, 12:15, Young people’s meeting, 6 p.m. Theme of the morning sermon will be “Fruits of the Spirit.” The annual “harvest home” service will open today. All members and friends are urged to be present. Harvest home sale at 8 o’clock Monday night at the church.
Tuesday, Nov 30, 1943 Regular business meeting will be held Wednesday night at Chandler Congregational church, Rev. Albert B. Cleage Jr., minister.
Sunday, Dec 5, 1943 Chandler Memorial Congregational Church, the Rev. Albert B. Cleage Jr., pastor: worship and sermon 11 a.m., theme, “The Messianic Hope;” music by the choir, Miss Pearl Blackburn, director; vocal solo, Prof. W. J. Black; saxophone solo, Prof. William Smith. Sunday school 12.15; Young People’s meeting, 6 p. m. The pastor is preaching a series of pre-Christmas sermons.
Sunday, December 12, 1943 Chandler Memorial Congregational church, Rev. Albert B. Cleage Jr., minister: worship and sermon 11 a. m., theme, “The Sin of Selfishness.” Sunday school, 12:15; Endeavor, 6 p. m. Important announcement by the trustees. All members asked to be present. The pastor is preaching a series of sermons dealing with the birth of Christ and its meaning or the individual.
Sunday, Dec. 26, 1943 The Chandler Memorial church, 548 Georgetown street, The Rev. Albert B. Cleage Jr. will preach his Christmas sermon from the subject, “Star Of Bethlehem.” The choir will render special Christmas music, and Mrs. Louise Newman will be featured as soloist, Sunday school and Christian Endeavor will meet as usual.
December 12, 1943
January 2, 1944 Chandler Memorial Congregational church, Rev. A. B. Cleage, minister: worship and sermon, 11 a. m., theme, “The Pentecost of Calamity.” Sunday school, 12:15; Endeavor, 6:30 p. m. The church annual meeting will be held Wednesday night at 8 o’clock.
January 7, 1944
January 9, 1944 Chandler Memorial church, Rev. Albert B Cleage, minister; Worship and sermon 11 A. M., theme “Winning the Peace;” Sunday school 12;15; Y. P. meeting at 6:30 p.m. Communion service. Business meeting to elect church treasurer.
January 16, 1944 Chandler Memorial Congregational church, Rev. A. B. Cleage, minister: worship and sermon, 11 a.m., theme, “Bitter Fruit;” Sunday school, 12:15 p. m.; Endeavor 6 p. m.
Saturday, January 29, 1944 The Rev. Albert B. Cleage, who recently resigned as pastor of the Chandler Congregational church, left Wednesday for San Francisco, Calif.
January 29, 1944 Toddy and Doris Cleage are due in from Lexington, KY this week. They have been there since their marriage in November. The young couple found the South’s dyed in the wool policy of segregation and oppression of Negroes most distasteful, and were glad when Toddy received a call to pastor a church in California. So they too will head for the Golden West.
The only things I knew about my parent’s wedding was that my mother wore blue and they were married at Plymouth Congregational Church. My parents separated when I was eight years old and apparently the clippings that my grandmother’s must have saved, disappeared.
When I found an archive for the Detroit Tribune Newspaper, published by my publishing poet cousin James McCall, I was hopeful that I would find an article that described the wedding. And I did! Unfortunately the article is so faded as to be almost blank. To say this was frustrating, is an understatement. The archive is housed at the Library of Congress – Chronicling America. Maybe one day Newspapers.com will add The Detroit Tribune to their collection and find better copies.
Here are the pieces I found. The first one, about a before the wedding event.
“Doris Graham is being feted, because Wednesday evening she will say “I do” to Todd Cleage, after which they will go to Lexington, KY. The local chapter of Iota Boule fraternity honored Doris Graham and Todd Cleage Friday night at the home of Dr. and Mrs. Gamble on Willis street. Among those who came with heart loads of good wishes were: Mr. and Mrs. Henderson, Dr. and Mrs. James Moore, Mr. and Mrs. M. Graham, Atty. and Mrs. P. Piper, Dr. Lloyd Bailer, Mr. and Mrs. H.S. Dunbar and their petite daughter Margie, Dr. and Mrs. Peyton Johnson, Mr. and Mrs. Winburn and Dr. and Mrs J.A. Moore and others.”
“These young people composed the bridal party of the Graham-Cleage wedding which was solomnized at Plymouth Congregational Church Wednesday evening, Nov. 17. They are left to right – Mrs. Frank Elkins, Jr. matron of honor; center the bride and groom, the Rev. and Mrs. Albert B. Cleage, and Dr. Louis Cleage, best man.”
My mother would have turned 95 years old today. She was 59 when she died in 1982, 32 years ago. So much has happened since then. She never saw either of my sons. She hasn’t seen any of her 11 great grandchildren. We were still living in Simpson County, MS. Since then we’ve lived in Excelsior Spring, MO; Idlewild, MI and back to Atlanta, GA. Computers hadn’t made their way into our lives. Y2K. 9/11. The 21st Century. Octavia Butler’s books. She would have loved them. Detroit under siege. Strange weather. Monsanto. Obama. The Gulf War. The War in Iraq. The war in Afghanistan. Drones. Blogging. All the family history I’ve found. The oral history I’ve proved right. All the questions I still have.
In my grandmother Fannie’s scrapbook, I found two library cards made by my mother, Doris and her older sister, Mary Virginia in 1931. My mother was 7 and Mary Virginia was 11. There is no book listed on my mother’s card but Mary Virginia names “The Children’s Story Hour” on hers. I wonder what other books they borrowed and lent or if this was a one time happening. I did notice that Mary Virginia returned her book on time.
This photograph was taken later that year in their backyard. Howard died of scarlet fever the following year. He was two and a half.